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netribution > features > interview with irvine_allen > page two

Tell us about Daddy's Girl.
It's a universal story about a neglected child waiting outside a pub for her daddy. It follows her subsequent misadventures as she is left prey to the whims and fancies of passing strangers. The themes are neglect and loss of innocence and she learns the cunning needed to survive the street, among some other unsavoury ideas, before being rescued by a local shopkeeper. Her rescue is only temporary though as her father soon appears. It's set over 8 1/2 minutes real time, in the rain. The style is spare and simple, nothing fancy; no cranes, dolly or track. Just a lot of rain machines

What was the budget?

And how did you raise that?
BBC2 Bristol 10x10 series 12 gave me 18,000, Scottish Screen provided 20000, the BFI 2000, and the Glasgow film Office another 5000; all acquired in that order.

What would you change if you could do it again?
My blue hat. I looked really daft in it.

What are the most common mistakes made by short filmmakers?
I have spent a lot of time at short film festivals over the last 2 years. I must have seen over five hundred short films and I feel qualified to comment here, so here goes: forgetting you need a good script; not reigning in the actors trying for the Oscar; miscasting; trying to be Quentin Tarantino with a budget of 5 bob (25 pence). Also, relying on style rather than substance.

How did you get it into Cannes? Was that a surprise?
Stuart Banyard, who's in distribution at Scottish Screen, sent it in. I wasn't surprised really; I always thought Daddy's Girl would travel well because the script was a brilliant, universal story. After I finished the cut with Bert Eeles I knew we had something special, it's a charming film and I always had faith in it. Some of the commissioners I tried to punt the script to early on are now eating their words - "Its a mood piece it's not drama". Aye right! But Angie Daniell and Jeremy Howe at BBC 2's 10x10 recognised a great script and good team when they saw one.

Did you plan a festival strategy?
No 'cos I didn't go. But some advice from previous experience - be there if you can, even if it's a small festival. Let the work speak for itself; don't try too hard to convince anybody that it's any good (it can easily sound like desperation). I've gone to a lot of festivals now and seen how other filmmakers operate. Some cruise the jury, some even buy them presents. I like to keep out their way until after the adjudication.

Best strategy is be yourself and meet as many people as you can. Sign nothing without taking advice if you get offers from distribution companies or dot coms. Oh, and you better be sweet to the lassie or laddie on reception at the festival, 'cos you might find out who their daddy is later.

Did you find the Film council or the British council helpful with funding prints or paying for travel expenses?
Scottish Screen were on the case quick, and really supportive. They struck a new print which was subtitled into French by a friend of mine. They also gave me a "Go-and-See" grant for a flight (in case the baby came early). They also produced posters and handled publicity. The British Council had been supportive of the film before Cannes and during it.
One piece of advice worth mentioning here is to triple check everything yourself. Twice we asked a courier company to pick up the print to go to Paris for laser subtitling. If I hadn't checked for a third time the print would still be lying in the lab now. It's a belt and braces industry so double-check everything.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out on shorts?
Apply to every short film scheme going. Bust a gut or the budget to stay on film, or at least print to 35mm at the back end. That way you can get into the best festivals; that's where you're going to make your name. Also, don't give up, I spent two years trying to get Daddy's Girl made. Find a good crew who you can get on with, and a DoP who'll give you your place. If all else fails get a handcam and just do it. Taking pictures is easier than getting good sound so don't skimp on the sound requirements.

What are you looking for in the people you collaborate with on a film?
I am looking for backers who will have faith in my experience, judgement and vision, without breathing down my neck. I probably have more experience in full-length drama than many of the people I meet in the industry. I want to be left alone to do what I'm good at; developing and directing good drama, but also I want people who will be there with good feedback and advice when I need it.

Have you had any offers or new meetings as a result of the award?
Aye, loads. Press, agents and producers. But I still have to sign on in the interim, like everyone else.

What are you working on now?
I have four more short film scripts that I'd love to put into production. Also I have a treatment for a feature which is about to be optioned. It's not signed yet so I can't say too much.

How many films were you competing with?

Five others were shortlisted in fiction from an original entry of over a thousand.

Who collected the award for you?
Jeremy Howe from the BBC went as my representative. He called me on his mobile as he was walking up the red carpet. He said David Lynch and Sean Penn were asking for me. I said "Aye that'll be right!" I was in the pub. I went outside for better reception.

He said he had been given something with a red ribbon. He was opening it, and said, "it says something in here about a Prix Special de Jury."
Those were the words I had been waiting for. I started screaming with delight in the street. The celebrations began. It didn't matter I wasn't there. I had a great party here in Edinburgh with friends.

In a year where the British press have attacked Cannes for a lack of UK talent - you're the only Brit to win a prize. How does that feel?
Honoured. Thrilled to bits. Justified. Vindicated. Most of all relieved.


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